A Mesa woman running in Senate President Russell Pearce’s recall election has dropped out of the race, halting a legal challenge that claims she was a fraudulent candidate meant to siphon votes from the contest’s other contender.
Olivia Cortes filed a voluntary withdrawal with the Arizona secretary of state’s office Thursday. She later issued a statement saying she dropped out of the race because of what she called “constant intimidation and harassment” of herself, her family, friends and neighbors.
“So for me, the dream of having a voice has died,” Cortes’ statement said, adding that she wanted to address economic, education and immigration concerns. Cortes lawyer Anthony Tsontakis said earlier that his client accepted an offer by attorneys for a Pearce critic to cancel a court hearing Friday if she stepped out of the race.
Pearce faces charter school executive Jerry Lewis, a fellow Republican, in the Nov. 8 recall election that resulted from a petition drive. Its organizers said Pearce has been out of touch with district voters’ concerns on education, health care and the economy. He denies that and says recall organizers targeted him because of his support for laws against illegal immigration.
Recall supporter Mary Lou Boettcher filed a lawsuit challenging Cortes’ candidacy, and a judge ruled Monday that there was evidence Cortes was recruited to run in the recall election to help Pearce by attracting votes that otherwise could go to Lewis.
However, Burke ruled that Cortes could remain on the ballot because she appeared to be sincere, because ballots already had been sent to overseas and military voters, and because any questions about her candidacy should be judged by voters, not the courts.